THAT GOOD OLD RULE OF THIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: The Rule of Thirds

Photography – Garry Armstrong and Marilyn Armstrong

The whole point about this rule — which is not a rule, but a guideline — is to try to urge photographers to not put everything dead-center of the photograph. Moving things around so that they are off-center make the picture more “active” and interesting. It gives it a sense of “action” that moves the viewer’s eyes.

Blackstone River in Rhode Island – Photo, Garry Armstrong

Except when you absolutely need something right in the middle and there are pictures which call of that.

Hey, you’re a photographer. Guidelines are useful, but they are not a replacement for artistic judgment or using your eye to get the picture the way you want it.

Marilyn with the camera – Photo, Garry Armstrong

Yesterday, Garry and I went out shooting because it was a nice day and the rest of the week will be alternatively gray, rainy, very rainy, monsoon-like, and chilly. We’ve had the wettest April on record and I’m hoping May won’t be equally damp.

Half my garden has drowned in the mud and I can’t even try to fix it because it’s still raining and the ground is like quick-mud.

A chubby dove – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

We went down to the Rhode Island end of the Blackstone River yesterday. Why there? Because they are doing roadwork on our street in the direction of town and now that they’ve passed laws against driving while dialing, everyone makes their phone calls or sends texts when they are at a stop sign.

Two Goldfinches – Photo, Marilyn Armstrong

The result is a really slow progression of cars. Since all of our local roads are just two lanes (in some cases barely even two), one slow car stops everything.

We went the other way where there was no traffic. And we took pictures.

THE RULE OF THIRDS: A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE

A Photo a Week Challenge: Thirds Rule

In photography, we are taught many rules and guidelines about composing our images. One of the most basic is the rule of thirds. If you mentally divide your field of vision into thirds, you get the following grid.

When viewing images, your eyes tend to naturally go to one of the intersection points rather than the center, so using the rule of thirds lets your pictures work with an image rather than against it

From Nancy Merrill:

IN A NEW POST CREATED FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE A PHOTO OR TWO (OR THREE…) USING THE RULE OF THIRDS.

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Portraits are on way to use the rule of thirds. Most people will stick a person dead in the middle of a picture, but actually the come out better if the subject is off to one side or the other.

I need to come clean, here. I had never heard of the rule of thirds until less than a year ago when it showed up on a different prompt and I looked it up. Nonetheless, during the more than 40 years I’ve been an enthusiastic amateur photographer, most of my photos pretty much fell into the “thirds” rule guidelines.

If you have a good eye, you’ll put your pictures together in a way that’s pleasing. Don’t get too hung up on rules. Overthinking photography can be as big a problem as not thinking at all. You need to be somewhere in the middle, if that makes sense.

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CENTERPOINT: CEE’S COMPOSE YOURSELF PHOTO CHALLENGE

CEE’S COMPOSE YOURSELF PHOTO CHALLENGE: WEEK #11 CENTERPOINT (Continued)

Some words from Cee:

To continue our discussion of the rule of thirds, let’s start by breaking it. Before you can break any rule, you have to understand it enough to be able to break it successfully. One thing you can do to break the rule of thirds is to put your subject in the middle of the frame. Although, using the counterpoint doesn’t always work. It can make for a rather boring photo. If you are going to use the middle at all, you need a specific and small point of focus, something that will draw immediately the eye to the center of the frame which your eye will then flow through the rest of the photo.

(Note: a square framed picture works best for a subject in the middle because it helps keep your eye in the center of the picture. We’ll talk about square perspectives in an upcoming essay.)

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For me, pictures that fit into this style best are macros of any kind — usually flowers — and tight portraits. Occasionally, a landscape will also fit these parameters, but not frequently.

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For reasons that can be a bit hard to explain, in action photos, the rule of thirds often seems irrelevant, maybe because a powerful subject dominates a picture without regard for placement.

Kaitlin 15th birthday

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Enjoy your holidays, everyone!

NOT THE RULE OF THIRDS – DOWN THE MIDDLE

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CEE’S COMPOSE YOURSELF PHOTO CHALLENGE: WEEK #11 CENTERPOINT – BREAKING THE RULE OF THIRDS

From Cee:

This week’s CCY Theme is Centerpoint – Breaking the Rule of Thirds. For this assignment I would like to see at least 4-6 photos of photos taken with the center of your photo being the location of your main subject. 

When is a rule not a rule?

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I’m not a very good follower of rules. I think rigid adherence to rules — in art or in life — stifles creativity. Thus, although I understand the guidelines, I don’t think about them while I’m shooting. I look in the viewfinder or screen . When I see something that pleases me, I shoot. No matter where it falls in the picture.

It belonged in the middle and any other position looks weird.

The rule of thirds is a useful guideline — especially during editing — but it is by no means a law that must always be followed. Many pictures fall naturally into thirds. If you have to force it, the rule probably doesn’t  … or shouldn’t … apply.

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As Cee showed in her examples, just because you can crop and force a photograph to fit “the rule,” it doesn’t mean the result will be satisfying. Know when to follow your own eye and instinct.

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Macros often work out best place in the middle of the frame, at least in part because of the way macro lenses focus. When you are shooting very tight and close, you often don’t have much choice in where you put your subject. Or, more to the point, you may want your picture on the left, but your camera may have its own idea. I do not argue with my lenses because I always lose.

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Sometimes the middle is the middle and not the middle. This is one of those.

When the frame is completely full, your picture is by definition in the middle!

When you fill your frame completely, the subject tends to be in the middle by default.

The middle, but also the left upper quadrant and the right lower quadrant. When you work a diagonal, is the picture centered?

The above picture is centered … but it’s also on a diagonal. It’s not always a simple choice.

The street is in the middle, but maybe the interesting parts on on either side? It's not always 100% obvious where the main subject really is.

The most important lesson to learn is that rules are not rigid or mandatory. They are meant to be broken. Understanding why rules exist is dandy, but don’t follow blindly. Use your eyes, your heart, and your vision.

It’s rule breakers who are remembered as great artists.

CEE’S COMPOSE YOURSELF : USING TWO-THIRDS OF THE FRAME

CEE’S COMPOSE YOURSELF PHOTO CHALLENGE: WEEK #10 USING 2/3 OF YOUR PHOTO FRAME

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From Cee:

As I promised in last week’s essay about the Rule of Thirds, I’m going to extend that discussion to cover what I call the Magic of Two-Thirds. Instead of putting your subject in one-third of the frame, use two-thirds, leaving the rest bokeh or negative space to accent your subject.

As with the Rule of Thirds, you can use the upper or lower two-thirds or the left or right two-thirds. I use two-thirds a lot with my flower photography, so you’ll see a lot of examples here. It’s great to use for any still life photography.

You can use the top and bottom two-thirds, but I find those are harder for me to frame, especially using the top two-thirds. Top weighted photos can look a little awkward sometimes. They can be quite effective if done right.

But enough words… let’s turn to the things that say a thousand words… some pictures!

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These are the proportions I use for most pictures flowers, gardens, and bouquets. These are also ideal proportions for many (most) portraits.

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I’ll try to include a variety of subjects. It think the important thing is to leave at least a quarter to a third of any picture more or less empty. If you make every part of the picture busy, it’s hard for the eye to find the main subject.

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This proportion is also important when designing a page for print or web. You need to make sure you have “white space” or it becomes difficult to read or focus.

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UP CLOSE KAITY PROM PORTRAIT

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Bi-tonal treament (warm-cold filter) on the Mumford River Dam

CCY: RULE OF THIRDS – PART I

CEE’S COMPOSE YOURSELF PHOTO CHALLENGE: WEEK #9 RULE OF THIRDS INTRODUCTION

FROM CEE:

For some reason, an off-center picture is more pleasing to us. It looks more natural. We know from the Brain Game tv show that if we stare at something right in the middle of the screen, our peripheral vision diminishes to the point where it’s not working much at all. Maybe that is what’s happening… we like things off-centered so that we can see more of what’s going on around us.

rule of thirds grid

We also know that the brain fills in negative space, so maybe that’s all part of how we tell stories with pictures. You’ll see what I mean in a moment.

So let’s divide your view finder into a gird with nine boxes (see grid for landscape photos to the right). The rule of thirds says that you should place the subject of your picture on one of the points where the lines intersect.


Non-photographically speaking, reality isn’t centered. The real world is rarely framed front and center, so perhaps eccentric looks more natural because it is more natural.

Let me see what I can find that fits the challenge. Among my more than 100,000 images, there are bound to be a few, right?

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Which Way Green River Bridge

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fuchsia macro june 2015

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Just remember: There are a million exceptions for every rule. Sometimes, the picture is in the middle and that’s precisely where it belongs.

“THE RULE OF THIRDS” ISN’T A RULE

PHOTO CHALLENGE – Rule of Thirds

“The Rule of Thirds is a photography concept that puts the subject of the photograph off-center, which usually results in blank space in the rest of the image.”


No, it isn’t. This isn’t what the rule of thirds means. That is wrong information. Primitive. Over-simplified. Take a look at this excerpt from the Digital Photograph School website:

What is the Rule of Thirds?

The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts. As follows.

rule of thirds gridAs you’re taking an image you would have done this in your mind through your viewfinder or in the LCD display that you use to frame your shot.

With this grid in mind, the ‘rule of thirds’ identifies four important parts of the image that you should consider placing points of interest in as you frame your image.

Not only this – but it also gives you four ‘lines’ that are also useful positions for elements in your photo.

Rule of Thirds in Photography

The theory is that if you place points of interest in the intersections or along the lines that your photo becomes more balanced and will enable a viewer of the image to interact with it more naturally. Studies have shown that when viewing images that people’s eyes usually go to one of the intersection points most naturally rather than the center of the shot – using the rule of thirds works with this natural way of viewing an image rather than working against it … (and) here (is an) example:

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It does not mean pushing your primary image off to one side to leave the rest blank. Most photographers have an instinctive feel for balance in a photograph and other than reminding them they shouldn’t always put the subject dead in the middle of the photo, will discover this for themselves. Correctly. With balance and art.

Check out the Digital Photography School website’s article on “The Rule of Thirds” for the whole story. It’s an excellent article.

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Composition cannot — should not — be reduced to a rule. Knowing the rule of thirds doesn’t mean you must adhere to it. I had never heard of the “rule of thirds” until I had been taking pictures for most of my life. Oddly, most of my landscapes fit the parameters. If you have a good eye, you will take pictures people like to look at. I don’t know anyone who thinks, even for a moment, about any rules while they are shooting. They just “see it” and press the shutter.

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Don’t over-think your process. Don’t try to force your photographs into a specific format. Sometimes, right down the middle is exactly where your primary image belongs. Just — not all the time.

In art, there are never any hard and fast rules. Just suggestions. Loose guidelines. You’ll find your own rules as you work.